News / USA

New Natural Gas Pipeline Into NYC Is Volatile Issue

New Natural Gas Pipeline Into NYC Is Volatile Issuei
X
May 31, 2013 9:20 PM
New York City is crisscrossed with underground natural gas pipelines, many decades old, supplying cooking and heating gas to homes and businesses. But safety and environmental concerns about a new gas pipeline being built into Manhattan’s west side have given rise to protest, and calls for New York to move more quickly to sustainable forms of energy. VOA's Carolyn Weaver reports on the situation.
New Natural Gas Pipeline Into NYC Is Volatile Issue
Carolyn Weaver
New York City is crisscrossed with underground natural gas pipelines, many decades old, supplying cooking and heating gas to homes and businesses. But safety and environmental concerns about a new gas pipeline being built into Manhattan’s west side have given rise to protest, and calls for New York to move more quickly to sustainable forms of energy.

The high-pressure Spectra Energy pipeline, set to begin operating in late fall, travels under parts of New Jersey, Staten Island, and the Hudson River, and enters Manhattan next to a playground and park. "This is an incredibly high-population area and it’s insane what they’re doing," said Kathleen Thomas, one of several hundred protesters who rallied in Manhattan recently to call on President Barack Obama to withhold support for all new fossil-fuel pipelines.

Thomas noted that the Spectra pipeline is similar in design and pressure to one that exploded in 2010, destroying a neighborhood in San Bruno, California. Eight people were killed and more than sixty injured in the disaster, which left a crater several stories deep and 122 meters wide. Thomas’s group, United for Action, and other opponents fear that a similar accident, or terrorist attack, could kill hundreds. Among the entities that have filed suit to stop the pipeline is Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River, where the pipeline travels under schools, hospitals and chemical plants.

Advocates and detractors

New York State and city officials, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, say the pipeline poses no threat. "I’m not an expert on this pipeline or pipeline technology, but we have pipelines running under half of America. If they were that dangerous, we’d have a lot of fires," he said.

Deputy Mayor for Operations Caswell Holloway, a former commissioner of environmental protection, seconded Bloomberg.  "We reviewed it for safety. We reviewed it for environmental impacts. It is being built to exceed the highest-rated standards," he said, adding that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has ultimate authority, also approved the project.

But opponents say pipeline accidents happen almost weekly in the U.S., although mostly in unpopulated areas. Claire Donahue, who founded a group called the Sane Energy Project to oppose the Spectra pipeline, said that energy companies themselves pay for environmental impact studies, and that regulations are so lax as to be meaningless. The requirement for this pipeline is that it be inspected only once every seven years, she said.

"There are 88 inspectors for 2.5 million miles of pipelines. The primary way that pipelines are inspected is to walk over the route looking for dead grass. I’m not making that up. We’re in a place, a cement area, the pipe is under a river, it is under a highway, it is under sidewalks. You tell me how they are going to know that it is leaking," said Donahue.

Health, environmental concerns

Pipeline opponents also are concerned about radon, a radioactive gas that is more concentrated in natural gas extracted from shale formations deep underground. Radon decays in about two weeks’ time, but opponents say it will not have more than a few days to diminish before reaching New York. Spectra Energy maps show the new pipeline carrying gas mainly extracted from the nearby Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania and New York.

Al Appleton, a former New York City commissioner of environmental protection, charged in a recent forum that city and state officials have been negligent in not investigating the issue. "The radon level in that natural gas could be as much as 20 to 60 times higher than the levels to which we’re currently exposed, which means a huge spike in your risk for things like lung cancer," he said. He noted that most New Yorkers live in apartment buildings constructed for gas-stove cooking only.

An analysis commissioned by Spectra Energy, however, found that the pipeline's gas will not bring dangerous levels of radon into New Yorkers’ homes or businesses. The study, by biophysicist Lynn R. Anspaugh, said that a study cited by opponents overestimated the amount of radon at both wellheads and after transmission. It also noted that the lead federal regulatory agencies involved, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy, both concluded there will be no health hazard to users of the natural gas brought by the pipeline. Spectra Energy statements also have said that the pipeline will be operated with multiple safeguards, including robotic checks of the pipeline, and that it poses no danger either of explosion or radon.

The lawsuits brought by opponents will be heard in federal court in the fall, right before the pipeline is set to begin operating. Meanwhile, opposition is building to other new natural gas infrastructure proposed for the New York area, including another high-pressure pipeline into the seaside Rockaway neighborhood, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Opponents say that global warming is responsible for storms like Sandy, and that remaining deposits of gas and oil must be left in the ground, in order to stave off even greater climate disasters.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: MikePB from: New York
June 03, 2013 8:22 AM
For a preview of how Spectra Energy’s track record will play out with the NYC pipeline, talk to folks who live with Spectra Energy today. Despite platitudes about safety, Spectra Energy does not have a best-in-class track record that might build confidence among NYC residents. Spectra Energy has a long, documented record of problems. It includes violations, explosions and fines (including a 15 million dollar federal fine). For example, much of the pipeline gas will come from Spectra Energy’s underground storage reservoir called Steckman Ridge, in Bedford County, PA, about 2 hours from Washington, DC.

This facility is a 12-billion cubic feet underground natural gas storage reservoir with a 5,000 horsepower compressor station, 13 injection/withdrawal wells and related pipeline infrastructure. It has had an ongoing series of problems since it went online in 2009.The most recent incident occurred in March. Residents were so concerned about loud noise (which lasted 2-3 hours) and what appeared to be smoke coming from the compressor station they called 911.

How did Spectra Energy react to its “stakeholders” concerns? Ms. Hanley (quoted in this article) called from nearly 500 miles away in the greater Boston area to dismiss residents concerns: "Nothing was released. There was no smoke. No incident.” The next day, Spectra Energy was forced to flip-flop because residents kept pressing for answers. As it turned out, there was a release of methane and other hydrocarbons; but so far the company refuses to publicly say how much or exactly why this happened. For more information, check out this well-sourced link: http://www.spectraenergywatch.com/blog/?p=1807


by: Stephanie Low from: NYC
June 01, 2013 1:05 AM
Unfortunately, industry assurances about pipeline safety have often proven overblown, not to say downright untrue. Quoting from Spectra Energy’s statement in the article above that “the pipeline will be operated with multiple safeguards, including robotic checks of the pipeline," those robotic checks refer to a Pipeline Inspection Gauge (PIG) that investigative reporter Greg Palast exposed 18 months ago as having been industry-tailored NOT to report cracks, leaks and corrosion expensive to repair as well as likely to cause explosions. You can check out the story at this link: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002241517
Not a reassuring possibility when Spectra’s own record, according to the government agency PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration), includes “17 inadequacies in its pipeline safety operations and procedures” and has been found to be ”inadequate in a number of areas, including continuing pipeline surveillance, emergency plans, and welding procedures.” http://www.naturalgaswatch.org/?p=744
How did this terribly dangerous project get so far along the way without official oversight and investigation? Will our city officials act in time to eliminate the possibility of explosion and death in Chelsea?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs